The Small Faces pioneered a new ‘heavy’ sound that would be adopted by blues-rock bands including The Who and Led Zeppelin, says Phil Capone .
Phil Capone examines a band that was way ahead of its time - Steve Marriott’s Small Faces.
The Small Faces emerged onto a changing london music scene early in 1965, as both the British blues boom and the mod scene were gaining momentum. The original line-up was: Steve marriott (lead vocal, guitar), Ronnie lane (bass, vocals), Kenney Jones (drums), and Jimmy Winston (keys, vocals). The band toured the london clubs, performing their own versions of soul and R&B classics by artists like James Brown, Ben e King, and Smokey Robinson. marriott’s soulful voice, backed by the band’s simple but effective grooves, proved to be an instant success on the emerging mod scene. legendary manager Don arden signed the Small Faces to a management contract, and a recording deal with Decca swiftly followed.
They released their first single Watcha Gonna Do about It in the summer of 65, which was an instant success, peaking at 14 in the UK. however, their follow-up, I’ve Got mine, written by marriott and lane, failed to chart so the duo was forced to rethink its approach - their debut single was, after all, based on a riff similar to Solomon Burke’s classic everybody Need’s Somebody To love. Once marriott and lane realised this the hits just kept on coming, including the chart-topping all Or Nothing.
marriott and lane’s talent for writing infectious pop songs aside, it’s the B-sides and album cuts that define the band as one of the driving forces behind British blues. marriott had one of the best blues voices outside of america, his heart-wrenching vocal style never sounded ‘affected’ or gimmicky, just totally authentic. listen to You Need loving, a re-working of Willie Dixon’s You Need love (cheekily credited to marriott and lane) and you not only have the obvious inspiration for led Zeppelin’s Whole lotta love but a blueprint for the whole Zeppelin sound: crashing energetic drums, distorted e and D chords sounded over a low e pedal, and last but not least, marriott’s stunning vocal.
as a guitarist marriott was no slouch either. although The Small Faces’ pop singles lacked solos, their B-sides and album tracks amply demonstrate his prowess. Songs such as e Too D, Grow Your Own, and the bombastic Own Up Time are examples of how his heavy riffing style was way ahead of its time. The deeper you delve into the Small Faces ‘hidden’ back catalogue, the more you realise that this band defined the heavy blues-rock sound that would dominate the late 60s and early 70s scene.
Steve marriot quit the Small Faces in 1968 to form humble Pie with Peter Frampton. When asked about his approach for this new band by Disc & music echo magazine in 1971 he replied, "It's just what I used to do in '65, '66 only I like to think I'm better at it. I'm just a rock’n’roller, that's what I'm best at".
It's just what I used to do in ’65, ’66, only I like to think I'm better at it. I'm just a rock ’n ’roller, that's what I'm best at. Steve Marriott
Steve Marriot and Ronnie Lane in full mod garb